WASHINGTON – Congress approved on Thursday a stopgap budget that averts, for now, a partial government shutdown, which had been a strong possibility due to the failure of Republican and Democratic lawmakers to agree on a more comprehensive bill.
The approval came after President Donald Trump met on Thursday with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to negotiate an agreement that would allow federal agencies to continue receiving funding before their allocated budget money ran out on Friday.
The Senate approved the deal in an 81-14 vote, allowing the government to be financed through Dec. 22, and the House had earlier given its support to the measure in a 235-193 vote, with all the yes votes being cast by Republicans and all the no votes by Democrats.
The budget bill is a temporary solution that will now be sent to the White House, where Trump is expected to sign it.
Congress, which had until Friday to approve the law, now has two weeks to work out a budget bill for the next fiscal year.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the temporary measure gives lawmakers “the time we need” to finalize discussions on a long-term budget solution.
After Democratic congressional leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi cancelled a meeting with the president several days ago, they agreed to meet with him in the Oval office on Thursday to narrow their differences.
“We hope we can come to an agreement,” said Schumer. “Funding the government is extremely important. Helping our soldiers is very important and helping average citizens is very important. So we’re here in the spirit of ‘Let’s get it done.’”
Also on hand for the meeting with the president were the two top Republicans in Congress: House Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell.
However, after the meeting, Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement that, despite having a “productive conversation ... nothing specific” was agreed to by the participants.
The main stumbling block is the Democratic demand that they will only agree to approve a budget bill if a law is enacted safeguarding so-called Dreamers, young undocumented foreigners brought to this country as children and protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was cancelled by Trump.
Trump in September cancelled DACA, which has been implemented by his predecessor, Barack Obama, but he gave Congress six months to provide a legislative solution to the Dreamers’ situation.